June 30, 2009
There was a lot of talk leading up to June 30. For the past 2 months is been questions of "what will happen when Iraqis take over?" In the back of the minds of most the fear was that there would be a lot of incomings to stuff it in the face of the Americans that they wanted us out.
When I passed back and forth through the Embassy compound on Tuesday, songs, music and marching could be heard 360° as if there was singing coming from every mosque in every direction. It is what I imagine it sounds like when the Pied Piper led the parade through town.
Behind the singing and music, were exclamatory shouts in cadence with the marching of the parade. Later, I ran into a friend who is one of the CG's top advisers and she said, "It was incredible. We did it. Six long years of working for this and the Iraqis are standing on their own. It's bittersweet of course," she said with a laugh, "because they forget that it was the Americans that enabled them, but they've done it!"
The media portrayed a strong sense of Iraqi Nationalism and though this included cheers that the 'occupiers' have vacated the cities, I smile thinking that it was the Americans that gave them the freedom to say what they want to say. And though I imagine there are many who have sacrificed limbs and our whole country sacrificed the lives of friends and family, our 1st Amendment is Free Speech, and to see this country unified and free is indescribable.
In celebration of Iraqi National Sovereignty Day guards decorated the checkpoints with any and all decorations they could find. Mostly Christmas decorations--there were metallic, snowflakes pasted on Humvees, tinsel, garland, ribbons, bows. I had to pause to capture the scene. (Later a security officer came up to me and said, hey Beth, was that you taking pictures of the checkpoints?--which you're not supposed to do--I fessed up...and he said, yeah, we thought that was you. They'd had seen me on camera. whoops)
I was out and about driving through the IZ on the 30th and every day since. It's been safe and sound. The fragile peace that surrounded the city when I first arrived has strengthened. And though terrorist threats still lie in wait, responsibility now falls on the shoulders of a sovereign Iraq.